Cleveland Journal

Kneeling to take a stand

Cleveland+football+players+take+a+knee+during+the+National+Anthem+before+the+start+of+the+Homecoming+game+against+Chief+Sealth+on+Oct.+14%2C+2016.
Cleveland football players take a knee during the National Anthem before the start of the Homecoming game against Chief Sealth on Oct. 14, 2016.

Cleveland football players take a knee during the National Anthem before the start of the Homecoming game against Chief Sealth on Oct. 14, 2016.

Tina Dang

Tina Dang

Cleveland football players take a knee during the National Anthem before the start of the Homecoming game against Chief Sealth on Oct. 14, 2016.

Ronnie Estoque, Reporter

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked major controversy when he decided to remain seated during the National Anthem of a preseason game this past August. His act of protest was to shed light on police brutality and racial injustices that have been occurring across our country – but what followed was a storm of contrasting criticism and support from people from all over.

As a publication, we are in full support of Kaepernick’s protest of the National Anthem as we deem it his First Amendment right and our responsibility to shine a light on acts of injustice that revolve around racial prejudice within our own community. 

Our school has been active on its stance on the Black Lives Mater movement. On October 19, Cleveland teachers were amongst the 2,000 educators in the Seattle School District that wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts to school. Students also joined the act of solidarity by wearing all black to school that same day to show their support.

The achievement gap between black students and their counterparts is absurdly high. According to the Seattle School District in 2013-14, the suspension/expulsion rate for African-American students was four times higher than for white students.  These students that miss school due to suspension miss critical days of school and can fall behind in their classes. Consequentially, African American students and other students of color are receiving high school diplomas at an alarmingly lower rate than their white peers.

To tackle this issue, Cleveland has implemented restorative justice circles, which are led by the new Dean of Students, Caine Lowery. Instead of immediately handing out suspensions to students for breaking school code, students are invited to have discussions with Lowery and teachers about how to reach more effective solutions.

Traditions such as standing up for the National Anthem have become symbols that we associate with national pride for our country. When symbols such as the flag are put into question, people become angry and are easily riled up, but remain silent when unarmed black men are killed at the hands of police.

Many of Kaepernick’s critics say his act of kneeling is disrespectful towards veterans who have served our country. Those people have misconstrued his action with their own personal beliefs about the flag and why they stand up before games. And the same people who are complaining about Kaepernick taking a knee are usually the same ones on their cell phones, disengaged, when the National Anthem plays. How many of you stop where you are and remove your hat when you hear the first strands of the song?

We believe that the reasons why people stand for the national anthem varies on what the flag and the song means to them individually. Often overlooked, the third stanza of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ includes the line “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/ From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” This has sparked the conversation as to whether or not the song is racist, and shows how ironic the song can be when it’s role is to highlight the freedom and justice that supposedly exists for everyone in our country.

With all the chaos that is happening in our country revolving around police shootings and racial prejudice, it is clear to see that justice does not ring within our country’s land. Even within our own school district there are equity issues that are yet to be fixed. Kapernick’s protest is synonymous with Cleveland’s decision to change our own racial bias and injustices within our community. To those who do stand for the National Anthem, we pose the question: Are liberties of all people being upheld by our justice and school systems?

The staff unanimously approved the silent protest as part of Kaepernick’s first amendment rights.

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Kneeling to take a stand